Im­pos­si­ble

Are jump­suits re­ally what men want?

ELLE Man (Canada) - - STYLE - BYJJ Lee

Mi­ley Cyrus, Jen­nifer Lawrence and JLO have all been pho­tographed wear­ing one. Hell, I bet even Malala Yousafzai, when she’s alone, pol­ish­ing her No­bel Peace Prize, wears one. I’m talk­ing about jump­suits, which have lately be­come a wom­enswear sta­ple. They have red-car­pet-ap­proved ones (Gigi Ha­did wore a se­quined one at the CFDA Fash­ion Awards), fish­net ones (Lady Gaga is the queen of sheer) and even denim ones (the ul­ti­mate Cana­dian tuxedo). They’re as ubiq­ui­tous as Stan Lee cameos in Mar­vel movies. But the trend it­self wouldn’t re­ally mat­ter ex­cept for the fact that the one-piece as a fem­i­nine fash­ion state­ment is a to­tal trav­esty.

Jump­suit-wear­ing was once a man’s game. Test pi­lot Chuck Yea­ger wore one. Ac­tor and race-car driver Steve Mcqueen too. Drs. Venkman, Stantz and Spen­gler—they all wore one. Okay, the last three are Ghost­busters, but you get the pic­ture. Suit­ing up in a one-piece used to be a mas­cu­line en­deav­our. Wear­ing one trans­formed a man into some­body pur­pose­ful, se­ri­ous, even su­per­heroic. But now, through the power of fe­male ap­pro­pri­a­tion, the one­sie has been re­duced to style, fancy, just an­other fad. I’ll ad­mit that what I’m about to say is ir­ra­tional, ter­ri­to­rial, even sex­ist, but jump­suits have started to feel like a girl thing.

That’s why I re­port now with great con­fu­sion that the one­piece has boomeranged back into the male wardrobe. And it has done so un­der a cloud of gen­der and sex­ual con­fu­sion. Balmain, Band of Out­siders and Bel­staff all fea­tured jump­suits on the fall run­ways (and that’s just the “B” la­bels). Bel­staff’s all-leather mo­tor­cy­cle ver­sion comes with a kinky edge; 3.1 Phillip Lim’s parachute-in­spired one with a stand col­lar has a flowy, I’m-not-wear­ing-any­thing-un­der­neath allure. Then there’s Kenzo’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Its trim sil­hou­ette in drab olive with dark con­trast­ing pan­els on the shoul­ders and chest is both fu­tur­is­tic and mil­­i­taris­tic. It’s some­thing you could wear if, say, your day job was to re­pair gi­ant, Kaiju-bat­tling ro­bots.

In other words, guys, while the jump­suit has come back, it’s dif­fer­ent. De­sign­ers have carved out a spot for it on the cat­walk, and in so do­ing have ba­si­cally sig­nalled the end of its purely util­i­tar­ian days. Be­cause of that, and its un­wa­ver­ing sta­tus as a hot item in wom­enswear, the jump­suit—once meant for fight­ing, fly­ing and get­ting down and dirty—may never be manly again. At least, that’s what I’ve hy­poth­e­sized.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I per­son­ally don’t ad­here to tra­di­tional male ways of dress. Sure, I’m known for wear­ing suits and bow ties, both a mark of con­ser­vatism, but I also like to push the en­ve­lope. I might not be the one­sie-wear­ing type, but I’ve been known to tie silk ker­chiefs around my bare neck; I’ve even dared to wear seer­sucker shorts and a blazer to work. I’m not a square or a stiff, yet some­times I do want my menswear to be menswear, my clothes to be clothes. If I did wear a jump­suit, I would want it to be just a jump­suit, not a fash­ion state­ment. An ex­per­i­ment was in or­der. I didn’t own a jump­suit, so I checked around. I couldn’t find any at the men’s bou­tiques be­cause the fall col­lec­tions hadn’t yet been stocked, so I headed to a women’s shop. I tried to be low key as I browsed the skirts and bil­lowy blouses. I saw some maxidresses hang­ing on a rack and thought maybe they’d be there. They weren’t. So I wan­dered into the lin­gerie sec­tion when a young sales clerk ap­proached me with a phone in her hand. She said, “Can I help you?”

I cleared my throat and, with my most non-pervy voice, said, “I was told you have jump­suits.” “We don’t have any for men.” “But I heard you, ahem, have some for women.” She nod­ded and fussed with her phone. Was she call­ing 911? “They’re one-size-fits-all. How tall is she?” “It’s for me.” She fid­dled with her phone again. “It’s for an ex­per­i­ment,” I added.

The gar­ment she handed me was made of black poplin. It had a zip front, a shirt col­lar and long sleeves. As I walked to the chang­ing room, I thought about Ger­man anti-ter­ror­ist units. They wore black jump­suits, didn’t they? I thought about the unity of the top and the bot­tom, like the coat of a pan­ther, the body rip­pling un­der­neath, stealthy yet ready for de­fin­i­tive, ex­plo­sive ac­tion.

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